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Shields to San Diego ‘gaining momentum’

The Padres are the favorite to land free-agent right-hander James Shields, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweeted Saturday afternoon, while USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets several teams remain in the race.

San Diego has been the main team linked to Shields in the last few days, and talks between the two sides were “gaining momentum,” according to Scott Miller of Bleacher Report on Saturday morning.

Miller notes Shields likes the idea of pitching in San Diego and Petco Park, a notorious pitcher’s park. Shields has spent his entire nine-year career in the American League and has only pitched in San Diego once — throwing seven shutout innings.

Shields was 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA in 34 starts for the Royals last season and has logged at least 200 innings in each of the last eight years.

— Cash Kruth

Shields to San Diego?

The Padres might have one big move left in an eventful offseason.

A day after Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler told MLB.com via email there is room to add payroll, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted there is growing speculation that free-agent right-hander James Shields will land in San Diego.

The Padres’ current payroll currently sits just shy of $90 million, which was their 2014 Opening Day payroll and a franchise record.

Shields was believed to have been seeking a contract in excess of five years and $100 million earlier in the offseason, but as time wears on his price tag appears to have dropped.

Shields, 33, was 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA last year and has been one of the game’s most durable pitchers over the past several seasons.

— Cash Kruth

Report: Padres still exploring trades

We’re one day shy of February, but the revamped Padres might not be entirely done with their offseason overhaul.

New Padres general manager A.J. Preller continues to search for ways to upgrade his team, even after creating a power-hitting outfield via trades for Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp, according to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal.

Rosenthal tweeted Saturday that Preller has been in touch with the Phillies about left-hander Cole Hamels, and also is interested in young Brewers infielder Luis Sardinas — who was acquired by Milwaukee in the Yovani Gallardo deal — as a potential shortstop solution.

Rosenthal notes that Preller worked with Sardinas in Texas, though there hasn’t been any recent contact between the two teams.

Although the Padres traded away many of their young prospects in acquiring the outfield trio, they were able to hold onto Minor League outfielder Hunter Renfroe and catcher Austin Hedges — ranked No. 48 and No. 51, respectively, in MLB.com’s recent Top 100 Prospects list. Right-hander Matt Wisler (No. 69) probably also would be discussed in potential Hamels talks.

Although Rosenthal notes some are skeptical San Diego has enough to acquire Hamels, it’s clear Preller isn’t shutting the door on landing the lefty ace.

— Cash Kruth

Report: Papelbon trade hits snag

Trade talks between the Phillies and Brewers regarding closer Jonathan Papelbon have “dissipated,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Saturday.
“It doesn’t appear there’s any momentum to it right now,” Melvin told the newspaper. “It could be revived later, I guess, but right now there’s nothing happening.
“Whatever traction there was seems to have dissipated.”
The biggest hang-ups, according to the report, are Papelbon’s contract and his no-trade clause. The right-handed closer can block deals to 17 teams, one of which includes Milwaukee. He is also due a $13-million option for 2016 should he finish 48 games. Papelbon has finished at least 48 games in every year but his rookie season.
The potential for a deal is not yet off the table, a source told CSNPhilly.com, but those issues complicate it.
Papelbon, 34, has 325 saves in 10 seasons with the Red Sox and Phillies.
— Cash Kruth

D-backs out on Shields

The D-backs are no longer talking to free-agent right-hander James Shields, general manager Dave Stewart said Thursday.

“We are not,” Stewart said when asked if Arizona was still in on Shields, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweeted.

Stewart also told reporters the market for Shields has changed since Max Scherzer signed with the Nationals.

Although Stewart had expressed interest in Shields in the past, Arizona will continue to search for other options to slot in the rotation behind right-handers Jeremy Hellickson and Josh Collmenter. Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Trevor Cahill, Vidal Nuno and Chase Anderson are among the candidates to fill the D-backs’ rotation.

— Cash Kruth

Report: Nats among teams interested in Scherzer; deal expected soon

The Nationals are among a couple of teams talking to top free-agent starter Max Scherzer about a seven-year deal, according to CBS Sports.

Scherzer, 30, is said to be seeking more than $200 million. He turned down a six-year, $144-million offer from the Tigers last Spring Training.

CBS Sports notes a deal between the right-hander and a club is expected within the coming days.

The 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner is 39-5 over the past two years. He was 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 starts for Detroit in 2014.

Scherzer is 91-50 with a 3.58 ERA in seven seasons with the D-backs and Tigers. He’s thrown more than 200 innings the past two seasons and has made at least 30 starts in each of the past six.

— Cash Kruth

Report: Gallardo heading to Rangers

The Rangers are on the verge of acquiring right-hander Yovani Gallardo from the Brewers, according to Fox Sports.

There is no word yet on what Milwaukee would get in return.

Gallardo, who turns 29 in February, is eligible for free agency following the season. He prepped at Fort Worth’s Trimble Technical before the Brewers selected him in the second round of the 2004 Draft.

Gallardo is a one-time All-Star (2010) who went 8-11 with a 3.51 ERA in 32 starts for the Brewers last season. He has made at least 30 starts in each of the last six seasons and is 89-64 with a 3.69 ERA in parts of eight Major League seasons, all with Milwaukee.

— Cash Kruth

Report: Giants, Blanco agree to 2-year deal

The Giants and outfielder Gregor Blanco have agreed to a two-year, $7.5-million contract to avoid arbitration, his agent Jose Mijares tells Venezuela’s Lider en Deportes.

The 31-year-old Blanco has appeared in at least 140 games in each of the last three seasons for the Giants. He hit .260/.333/.374 with 16 stolen bases last season, playing left field and moving to center in place of the injured Angel Pagan.

Blanco will shift to a backup role with this week’s reported signing of Nori Aoki, but provides valuable experience at all three outfield positions and speed off the bench.

He is a .257/.344/.344 career hitter in parts of six Major League seasons with the Braves, Royals and Giants.

— Cash Kruth

Rays ink Francisco to Minor League deal

The Rays have signed infielder Juan Francisco to a Minor League contract, according to multiple reports.

The 27-year-old Francisco spent last season with the Blue Jays, hitting .220/.291/.456 with 16 home runs in 106 games between first and third base.

Francisco is a .236 career hitter with 48 homers in six seasons with the Reds, Braves, Brewers and Blue Jays.

— Cash Kruth

Blue Jays, others interested in Axford

Canadian reliever John Axford could be coming home.

The Blue Jays are among four teams interested in the right-handed reliever, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

The 31-year-old Ontario native burst onto the scene with the Brewers in 2010, assuming the closer role that season and the next before being losing it during a rocky 2012. He saved 46 games and posted a 1.96 ERA in 2011 to earn down-ballot Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player Award votes.

He combined to go 2-4 with a 3.95 ERA and 10 saves in 62 appearances in 2014 for the Indians and Pirates.

– Cash Kruth

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